UPDATE: Congratulations, Bubba Watson, the 2012 Masters champion!
I'm happy for your win, even though, as the first natural left-handed golfer to win a professional major, you're forcing me to re-write the introduction to Scratch in the Mirror!
But that's OK, you can make it up to me by granting me an interview for the chapter on the mental/spiritual side of golf. Please contact me at email@example.com. Thanks!)
A draft of the Introduction to Scratch in the Mirror ...
Want to win a few bets at the 19th hole? Ask the others in your foursome how many lefties have won major championships in golf. Your knowledgeable friends will say three: Bob Charles, Mike Weir, and Phil Mickelson.
Imagine their shock and surprise when you tell them – as you hastily collect your winnings – that none of those guys is a real lefty. Each is actually right-handed, but plays golf from the sinister side.
Now imagine their rage when they realize you’ve tricked them. Fisticuffs ensue. Since you’re outnumbered three-to-one, they easily beat you to a pulp and take back their winnings. They also take your watch and the rest of the cash in your wallet, just for good measure.
Man, who are these guys!? Why you would want to play golf with three jerks like that is beyond me, but who am I to judge another man’s friends?
Later, in the ER, you tell your wife what happened and she asks the obvious question: “Well …? If not Charles, Weir, and Mickelson [your wife is very knowledgeable about golf; that’s why you married her], what is the right answer? Have any actual left-handers ever won a major professional golf championship?”
A smile creeps across your bloodied face, but you wince only slightly at the pain. “Johnny Miller,” you gasp. “Greg Norman. Curtis Strange. Nick Price. David Graham. Byron Nelson.”
A hush falls as doctors, nurses, assorted orderlies, and the little old lady in the waiting room stop what they’re doing and draw silently closer, hanging on your every word. Everyone is astonished by the revealed wisdom that has already passed your swollen lips, but you’re not done yet. With strength fading, you summon another breath and whisper, like Charles Foster Kane spitting out “Rosebud”: “Hogan.”
A nurse faints. In the hallway, a bedpan crashes to the floor. Across the pond, a chill wind blows through “Hogan’s Alley” at Carnoustie.
“They’re all naturally left-handed,” you explain. “They only play golf right-handed.”
A tear runs down your wife’s cheek as she turns to the attending physician and says, “Doctor, my husband is obviously delirious and in great pain. Can you do something?”
Shaking his head with a sad and concerned look, the doctor lowers a mask to your face. Moments later the room goes dark and all is quiet.
In retrospect, maybe you should have just stuck to the conventional wisdom. Or at least made the stakes a little lower.
• • •Ever since I was a kid first taking up the game of golf, I was taught that the left hand is, or should be, the dominant hand in a right-handed golf swing. “You’re using too much right hand!” was my dad’s most consistent piece of advice. “Let your left hand pull the club through; don’t push it through with your right.”
How can that be? I always wondered. I throw with my right hand. I write with my right hand. I hit my annoying younger brother with my right hand. Why wouldn’t I use my right hand more to swing a golf club?
And, assuming it’s true that I shouldn’t, wouldn’t it make sense for me, as a right-handed person, to play golf left-handed?
That thought has haunted me ever since. And so when Phil the Thrill, the right-handed lefty, first burst onto the scene by winning the U.S. Amateur and a boatload of college titles (not to mention a PGA victory) as a young amateur, I assumed he was a product of just such a theory. Surely, I thought, someone must have groomed him to play as a southpaw with an eye toward testing this theory – and hopes of turning him into a world-class player.